Florida’s Public Service Commission (PSC) today hosted a workshop for water and wastewater utilities, state agencies, associations, and legislators to discuss ways to hold down rates. In recent years, rising costs have forced many water and wastewater utilities, particularly small systems, to increase rates.
PSC Chairman Art Graham opened the workshop, saying, “Many of Florida’s privately-owned water and wastewater systems are expensive to operate because they serve small areas and face added environmental standards and technical pressures. Today, we’re exploring ways to increase industry efficiencies and review government programs that can help utilities keep customer costs down.”
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) presented information on the State Revolving Fund (SRF) program that provides financial savings for water projects that benefit the environment and protect public health. Federal and state contributions fund low-interest loans for water quality projects, including municipal water and wastewater treatment projects.
“A primary goal of the SRF is to facilitate local community water quality projects that might not otherwise be built,” said Bob Holmden, DEP’s Chief of the Bureau of Water Facilities Funding.
Current Florida state statutes and case law require the PSC to allow utilities to recover costs plus a fair rate of return on their investment. Potential alternative funding sources that utilities can tap for infrastructure improvements will help keep customer costs down.
Gary Williams, Executive Director, Florida Rural Water Association (FRWA), presented information on the support FRWA provides to its 1,300 public water and wastewater system members. The non-profit agency offers operator training sessions, free technical assistance, and rate studies.
Participants also learned about potential savings and benefits of bulk purchasing and property tax incentives and reviewed issues encountered in water industry acquisitions and resellers.
In late September, utilities from across the state attended the PSC’s informal workshop in Orlando to explore solutions for the many financial and environmental challenges facing small, privately-owned water and wastewater systems. Today’s workshop provided an opportunity for other interested parties to offer ideas for holding down costs.
For additional information, visit www.floridapsc.com.
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